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Resale Report: Why even buy from a scalper outside a venue in the StubHub era?

Resale Report, a column focused on the secondary ticket market, runs every Wednesday here on BrooksLaichyear.com. Check out the first Resale Report from last week if you missed it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2012 Resale Report

Leonsis on ticket scalping at Verizon Center – “Selling tickets and sadly, buying tickets outside of Verizon Center is illegal. Scalping has become a major concern for many of our fans and they communicate these issues to us directly,” wrote Ted Leonsis, owner of the venue and three DC sports teams that play there.

In the age of online resellers such as StubHub and Ticket Exchange, it’s hard to believe that any buyers would make scalpers near a venue their source for tickets. Fraud protection and, in most cases, better prices are available through online outlets, which also don’t come with the risk of being stopped by the police or having to haggle with a scalper.

The chances of getting five people into Verizon Center for the price of one face-value ticket is a transaction that would be highly unlikely to ever occur outside the arena. But there are bargains to be had like that to games around the country on a regular basis when you use the more high-tech and legal ticket solutions. Unless you’ve waited until less than two hours before game time to purchase a ticket, when resellers have cut off resales, there’s hardly ever a reason to take your business to a scalper outside the venue. Even a tweet or a Facebook post in those last two hours before an event starts might yield tickets at a better price than purchasing them on the street.

So much for a victory tour? – The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings visited Detroit on Sunday afternoon for a nationally televised NHL on NBC game. On Friday, tickets for that Kings visit to the Wings were available starting at $15 on StubHub. On Monday, when L.A. played at St. Louis, tickets for that Blues home game were available for $7.95 on StubHub late that afternoon. The Kings at least appear to be a hot ticket back home in L.A. On Friday, they play the first of three home games in four days, as they face the Bluejackets, Avs and Ducks. Nothing is currently available on StubHub under $30 for any of those three games.

Yankees add new ticket resale option – The New York Yankees this week announced an agreement with Ticketmaster to create Yankees Ticket Exchange, providing fans with another option for buying and selling their game tickets. As reported by the New York Times Ken Belson, the team will provide fans with an incentive to use the new service over the popular StubHub: “Ticket holders will be charged only a 5 percent fee to sell their tickets, compared with 15 percent on StubHub. Buyers will be charged 10 percent of the resale value, the same as on StubHub.” Consumers (and brokers) can still unload or acquire Yankees tickets through StubHub and, with buyers being charged the same percentage on either service, it’s likely they’ll buy from the one that offers them the best ticket options or prices.

Cheap Valentine’s Day option in South Florida – The Florida Panthers have some of the lowest StubHub prices in hockey, with very few games starting at over $10. Valentine’s Day is no exception, as the Montreal Canadiens visit Sunrise. The lowest price ticket on StubHub for that game is currently listed for $8.00 and there are over 1,000 available. $35 will get you into the lower bowl presently. If last night’s sparse crowd in South Florida, when the Panthers hosted the Washington Capitals, is any indication, you and your date will have a pretty good chance at getting on the big screen. Own the Kiss Cam…or an entire section. On Saturday, it will be a much different resale story on Montreal, when the Canadiens return home to face Philadelphia. Seats on StubHub for the Flyers visit to Bell Centre currently start at $101 on StubHub.

Bargain alert for Caps fans – On Tuesday, February 26, the Carolina Hurricanes visit Verizon Center to face the Caps. As of this posting, there are 2,259 tickets available on StubHub, with the cheapest going for $24.99. On Ticket Exchange there are another 1,788 available and those currently start at $21. There are already below-face-value options available, but those prices could drop even further as the game date gets closer, especially if the inventory remains plentiful. The key to getting a great deal for a game like this is often to wait. The buyer risks the chance that prices could go up or never drop any further if the tickets start to move. But with patience from enough buyers and the right conditions, there could be some dirt cheap seats for this one come the afternoon of February 26. Here a few suggestions on how to score cheap seats like this via the resale market.

Use the #ResaleReport hashtag – Send me a screen shot of best deals you find on hockey tickets or other events. You can do that on Twitter at @mikeholden or through email at brookslaichyear AT gmail DOT com. You can also tag them on Twitter as #ResaleReport.

Local TV ratings for Caps’ first playoff game up over last year’s Game 1

Current alternate logo, 2007 present

Current alternate logo, 2007 present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis noted on his blog Friday, regarding Game 1 of the Caps opening round playoff series with the Boston Bruins, “Last night’s Caps playoff game on Comcast SportsNet attracted a peak audience of more than a quarter of a million viewers – 263,000 to be more precise – and averaged 190,000 viewers in the Washington and Baltimore markets.”

That puts this year’s first Caps playoff game ahead of last year’s Game 1 versus the New York Rangers, which scored 179,000 households in the Washington and Baltimore markets, according to this SB Nation post from last April.

The higher ratings for this year’s Game 1 occurred even as the Caps are coming off a disappointing regular season that saw them not clinch a playoff spot until their second to last game. A year ago, the Caps went into the playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

One difference between this year and last year, which could partially explain why the 2012 Game 1 averaged 11,000 more households than 2011’s, is that the Caps opened the playoffs on the road this season due to their lower seeding. Some of those 18,000+ fans who were at Verizon Center for Game 1 last year were likely watching on TV this time. But, it’s still safe to say that local interest in this team remains strong—and may even be stronger than it was a year ago-—given the opening night TV ratings.

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A ‘sign’ that an unfocused Caps team has gone completely off the rails

I’ve been a huge Caps fan for a long time and I always will be. I’ve been a big believer in “The Plan” and a strong supporter of most of what the organization has done the last few years. But lately, a few things have been bothering me:

    • Though I’ve long been a big fan of Alex Ovechkin and the take-no-prisoners approach he took the NHL by storm with, I haven’t been impressed with him lately and his inability to take responsibility for some of his actions, act like a team leader publicly, etc. The organization and some fans seem OK with him doing whatever he’d like. Mike Wise recently dubbed these people Great 8 enablers, during the skipped All-Star Game debate. As Caps fans, we all need to take a break from the red Kool-aid often enough to see things objectively.
    • The Holden Family season tickets in the 400 level, which my father owns and generously lets his whole family use, have gone up 90.7% in five years. Professional sports is a business, I love what Ted Leonsis has done for the Caps, and this team has become extremely popular. However, now in their fifth straight year, these constant and sometimes rather steep increases have started to feel excessive—and like the type of thing that could come back to haunt the organization if they hit a prolonged rough patch.
    • I’ve watched the Caps exit the playoffs in an uninspiring fashion for three straight seasons. As I wrote the other day, (see ‘90.7%’ link in the bullet point above): “Not since the 2007-08 playoff loss in seven games to the Flyers has it appeared as if the team left it all out on the ice as they were eliminated. In series losses to Pittsburgh (’08-’09), Montreal (’09-’10) and Tampa Bay (’10-’11), the team looked flat and unable to push over the hump to take their post-season game to the next level.” Yet still today, even under a new coach and with a variety of veterans and role players brought in over the last few seasons, the team does not seem to have learned to seize opportunities, finish opponents when they have them down or play a full 60 minutes on a consistent basis. There are times when the Caps don’t even seem present.

Then this afternoon, I read something that further irks me and it relates especially to that third and final bullet point above.

I was following a story Tuesday night about two Caps bloggers, known as Knights of Knuble, who were asked to take down “Free Knuble” and “Scratch Hunter” signs they brought to the game. It was reported by Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times that this was due to some Caps players requesting the signs be removed during warm-ups.

Today, Leonsis confirmed this on his blog, writing: “A couple of players saw a sign at ice level during warm-ups that they felt was disrespectful toward our coach. One of the players asked one of the bench personnel to see if he could get them to take it down. One of our arena employees thought he was being helpful, and asked the fans to take it down.”

Leonsis goes on to explain that the signs should have been permitted inside the venue, which is great to hear because banning signs is Redskins-like behavior and very un-Caps.

But I couldn’t help but wonder aloud on Twitter today: “Why are Caps players even focused on signs in stands during warm-ups? Nice that they want coach respected, but why not just block it out?”

This is a Caps team that acts confused when they can’t get up for a big game. Multiple players have commented on not knowing why they come out flat some games and they’ve been uttering nearly identical quotes after some of these games for over three years now.

Recently, after a loss to the Panthers, defenseman Karl Alzner commented, “Some teams it’s just real easy to get up for and that’s because of the team that they are: the Rangers, the Canadiens. Those games are really easy and sometimes here in Florida it’s difficult to get up…”

I was dumbfounded when I read that Alzner quote back in early February. If you’re a professional athlete and you’re thinking that, don’t say it out loud. And while you’re thinking that but not saying it, ask yourself why you are a professional athlete yet unable to focus enough to get up for any game you need to get up for, particularly one against a division rival that was banging on your door at that point.

But now, when I see that there are guys on the Caps that are so unfocused on the game at hand that they’re actually going to take the time to ask that a “Scratch Hunter” or a “Free Knuble” sign be taken down during warm-ups, quotes like Alzner’s and this team’s inability to play consistent hockey for 60 minutes, or from one game to the next, makes a little more sense.

Ignore the damn signs, Caps! Or be so in the zone and focused on the precious two points up for grabs that you don’t even notice the signs to begin with. Play like you did a few years ago when you were all business, dead set on gaining two points at a time and nothing more and nothing less…until it was time to play the next game and grab those two points.

You were a machine, Caps, and thousands of people were inspired by it. But now, when I see your captain sulking, your disinterest on the ice at times and some of you actually taking the time as pro athletes to worry about what a cleanly-worded and done-seemingly-in-good-fun sign says, I can’t help but think that you sound like losers.

I’ve rooted for a lot of losing teams in my life; it’s really not hard to do. I’m not a fair weather fan, even when my teams are on a losing streak. But when a team doesn’t seem to care for stretches at a time or when they look deflated, uninspired and plain defeated, they’re not always a lot of fun to pull for. And now you want to complain about signs, Caps? Really? Seriously, guys? Is that where the focus should be as you sit outside the playoffs with under 20 games left in the regular season? (I also doubt one of the biggest bad-asses in the history of hockey, Dale Hunter, needs anyone to protect him from a paper sign. I’m also sure he saw and heard much worse than “Scratch Hunter” during his playing days).

See yourself, one solid shift at a time, winning the game being played on the ice, Caps, not what some fan is holding up to the glass surrounding it. Your season, and many fans’ patience, might be gone soon if you don’t.

Looking at the bigger picture and the dollars of the Caps continued season ticket price increases

Caps - Red Wings game at Verizon Center - 10/22/11 - Section 409

Caps-Red Wings at Verizon Center, 10/22/11 - the view from 409

The Caps announced season ticket prices for next season and for many customers this means an increase for the fifth straight year.

Owner Ted Leonsis noted in a message to plan holders: “Most of you will see a change, an average increase of about 8%. Some seat prices have changed more than others, while some have stayed the same and a few seating areas actually have decreased in price. I realize no one wants to pay more, but our season-ticket pricing has been moderate when compared with others around the league.”

An average increase of 8% one year might not sound like a lot. But increases year-over-year work like compound interest and this one combined with those of the past four years has resulted in a dramatic increase in the total cost to plan holders for their Caps tickets. As an example, I was chatting with my father about the price of his 400 level seats over the past five years and here’s the total cost for his two seats by year, which are going up 12.5% for next season:

2008-09  $1713
2009-10  $1882
2010-11  $2478
2011-12  $2903
2012-13  $3266

So, in five years, the cost of his season tickets has almost doubled, increasing by 90.7% in going up $1553, from $1713 in 2008-09 to $3266 for next season. During this span, the Caps have been incredibly exciting to watch the majority of the time and have become the hottest ticket in D.C. But, the team has not advanced past the second round of the playoffs during this time and each of their post-season exits has featured some rather uninspiring play. Not since the 2007-08 playoff loss in seven games to the Flyers has it appeared as if the team left it all out on the ice as they were eliminated. In series losses to Pittsburgh (’08-’09), Montreal (’09-’10) and Tampa Bay (’10-’11), the team looked flat and unable to push over the hump to take their post-season game to the next level.

For team management, the justification for constant price increases is likely more about demand and Caps season ticket holder data than how each season has ended. A waiting list for season tickets, a sell out streak that dates back multiple seasons now and a “slightly better than 98%” renewal rate last season signals the Caps can get away with pushing prices upward every year. Looking at it this way, what the Caps are doing makes sense—they’re striking while they can and taking in dollars that their data is telling them are there to be grabbed.

However, after price increases for so many seasons in a row and large ones the past two years, a current team that would not make the playoffs if the season ended today, and signs that the resale market for Caps tickets might be softening, it would have been a good PR move for the Caps to give their loyal customers a break this year. But the truth is, for any plan holder they lose, the Caps likely have someone waiting to take their place right now.

This aggressive approach the Caps front office is taking with ticket prices appears to be working for them currently, but it has some potential to backfire long term if enough fans are left with a bad taste in their mouth from the constant increases and the team hits a rough patch, missing the playoffs for a year or two, or continuing to disappoint when they make it.

Meanwhile, up the road in Baltimore, the Ravens announced they will not raise ticket prices FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR. This is a team that was potentially one dropped pass (or bad call, depending on how you look at it) away from going to the Super Bowl this season. On their decision to leave prices alone again, Ravens President Dick Cass said, “We know that our fans are continuing to be stretched financially to pay for season tickets. While the economy is improving, it’s still not strong.”

Here in D.C., the Caps continue to push it with their price increases, pouncing on the chances before them to drive their revenues upward.  If the team on the ice attacked their opportunities each spring in the same manner, this might be easier to accept.

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That red Kool-Aid must be good

It can be argued that a suspension of three games is too harsh a punishment for the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin to be handed for his check on Zbynek Michalek of the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. But the hit was, without a doubt, illegal and worthy of discipline—one or maybe two games in this Caps fan’s opinion, with three feeling a bit excessive but not like absurdly too many.

My real disappointment with this situation though has less to do with the act itself—where Ovechkin made a bad decision in a split second (though he does need to be more conscious of keeping his skates on the ice when delivering a hit)—and more to do with the way Ovechkin and the Capitals organization, as well as some Caps fans, have handled things since.

Caps owner Ted Leonsis blogged that he does “not agree in any way with the suspension of Alex Ovechkin for 3 games.” I hope it’s only the length of the suspension that Leonsis takes issue with. His player’s feet left the ice and he launched himself into Michalek. A hit like that is against the rules, plain and simple. I ask Leonsis and any Caps fan who feels otherwise: “What would you be saying if someone had hurled their body into Mike Green that way?”

In speaking to reporters, Ovechkin said, “I don’t think it was bad hit, a dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don’t get hurt and I don’t get two minutes. I don’t think it was a three-game suspension.” So maybe Ovi feels three games is too many, but why can’t he admit he made a mistake and that it was, in fact, a bad hit? He may not have meant for it to be one, but he acted recklessly and it was.

As Adam Vingan wrote on Kings of Leonsis, “Ovechkin contradicted himself, saying that the hit was neither ‘bad’ nor ‘dirty,’ but admitting that he jumped into Michalek, which is both bad and dirty. To be blunt, if the hit was neither of those things, Ovechkin would not be sitting out until February 4.”

It would be nice to see Ovechkin take some ownership of what he did, like the victim of his hit did for an elbow he gave later in the same game. As Vingan points out in that same post, “Michalek, who did not receive any supplementary discipline for his elbow on Matt Hendricks, admitted his mistake and said that he deserved punishment for it.”

The fact that Michalek did not receive a suspension for his hit, while Ovechkin did, is what seems to have many Caps fan riled up. But, simply because one guy got handed a suspension and the other didn’t, should not prevent Ovechkin, team management and Caps fans from admitting his own hit was outside the rules and a suspension worthy offense.

And that brings us to the NHL All-Star Game, which Ovechkin has chosen to skip, saying “My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game, it’s a great event, I love to be there but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. I got suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot].”

In an open letter to Ovechkin, my brother used the analogy of a child being grounded. He wrote that “Being grounded does not excuse you from your chores,” with the All-Star Game being one of Ovi’s chores that he should continue to do, even if he may not want to (like back-checking consistently).

I choose to use a different, but slightly related analogy. I kind of see Ovechkin as the kid who is saying, “Fine, if we can’t play the games I want to play, then I’m not playing at all” and he’s packing up his toys and going home sulking.

Nick Kypreos said something similar: “Alex Ovechkin gets a three-game suspension so he’s taking his road hockey net and going home.” But Kypreos goes on to excuse Ovechkin for skipping the All-Star Game saying, “the league gave Ovechkin the wiggle room to take a pass and I believe he’s perfectly within his rights to take the weekend off.”

Ovi may be within his right to opt out of this year’s game but, as a Caps fan especially, I don’t like the decision he made. One commenter here on this blog said they “think it is great that he is taking a stand.” I think this move by Ovechkin actually makes him look more weak than strong.

When my son asks me why Ovechkin isn’t in the All-Star Game this weekend, I’ll probably tell him that only Ovechkin knows the answer to that, but that it appears he’s either trying to make a statement about being suspended, that he doesn’t want to face the consequences of his actions or he maybe didn’t want to be there in the first place, preferring to rest.

If it was a statement he wanted to make, Ovechkin should have sucked it up, put on his big boy skates and gone to the All-Star Game, being bigger than life in every opportunity he got and playing out of his mind, like the Ovechkin we’ve seen many times before.

When asked about his suspension by reporters during All Star Weekend, he could have taken ownership for what he did and then expressed disappointment that he got so many games. If he wished, he could have then spoken about how he would have liked to have seen Michalek suspended for his hit on Hendricks as well.

In other words, he could have handled it in a mature fashion. He could have handled it like a captain. He could have handled it like someone who represents a team and its fans. His current approach has him sounding like a dejected quitter and I’m at least one Caps fan who isn’t too proud to be associated with that.

Finally, as I read comments about the situation online, I’m wondering why so many Caps fans are quick to defend Ovi’s actions. It’s as if they have to stand with him on all or nothing and they’re choosing all. It sometimes seems as if there’s a fear among Caps fans that if they admit Ovechkin has done one thing wrong, the Ovechkin-naysayers of the world like Mike Milbury and Damien Cox will win.

I think we all need to put down the red Kool-Aid occasionally. This is one time when Ovechkin isn’t being the player and leader I think many of us would like to see him be.

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